October 2013

I don't normally do the "[Character]'s thoughts when [event]" but I have a lot of feelings and I just.

Written during a slow hour at work.

::Jack, what have you done?::

::Where were you? :: You were with Pitch?::

::We should never have trusted you!::

Jack winced away, eyes squinting against the harsh wind shooting past him. Unshed ice particles stung his eyes and he could believe that was all that was making him cry. And he kept flying, driving himself through piles of cumulus clouds, blinding himself to the ground below. He needed to disappear, vanish in this world of foggy grey and white, premature snow dizzying around him like a shaken snowglobe.

::You're invisible. It's like you don't even exist::

::You must be used to that by now::

::I've tried everything :: Tell me why::

::I'm going to ignore you::

As much as the Wind carried Jack forward it also seemed to pull him back. Jack tightened his muscles against it, refusing to bow to whatever it seemed to say – turn back, go back, try to explain.

But Jack couldn't go back. Not now. Not ever again. Not when he had completely ruined everything.

The Wind set Jack down on a thick field of snow and permafrost in the Antarctic. It continued to tug at his hoodie and wail around him, swaying his light body northward again, but Jack waved it away as much as one could possibly bat away a gale. There was nothing the Wind could say. Nothing at all to fix this. Fix him.

::What did you do? :: You make a mess wherever you go::

::You want to grab them and fly off with them. :: You're afraid of what the Guardians will think::

::They will never accept you::

STOP IT!

::Who's Jack Frost?::

::No one; he's just an expression::

::I wasn't anyone before I was Jack Frost::

::It's like you don't even exist::

Jack shut his eyes; tears froze to his lashes and he wiped them away. No; he didn't exist. He never had. Never as anything more than a throwaway line in a Christmas song. Kids didn't believe in him and adults never told their children about him like he was real.

::I've tried everything and no one ever sees me::

::If I find my memories then I'll know why I'm here::

::I've heard a lot about you::

::Is that Jack Frost?::

::Been a long time::

::You're not still mad about that, are you?::

::Who are you, Jack Frost? What is your center?::

Jack sank to kneeling in the snow, arms pressed around his ribs. He felt like he was suffocating, already struggling to breathe with the Wind whipping around him. Everything hurt too much. The looks on their faces – all of them; even Sandy's from a distance when the nightmare arrow impaled him. The hurt, the disappointment, the realization that they'd made a horrible mistake...

The gold-plated tooth box sat heavily in the pocket of his hoodie. Jack reached in and pulled it out, staring at its polished and gleaming surface, the carefully inlaid mother-of-pearl and jade mosaic. The portrait of a boy with messy brown hair and mischievous eyebrow quirked up, a crooked smirk pulling his lip. Jack had felt his own expression stretch to match it so many times over his 300 years. And here was another seventeen, eighteen, that he couldn't remember; right in the palm of his hand.

::Do you want them, Jack?::

::I wish I'd known about your memories::

::You want to grab them and fly off with them::

::I could have helped you::

::That is where you were? You were with Pitch?::

::But you're afraid of what the Guardians will think::

::No one ever sees me::

::No one will ever believe in you::

A shudder coursed through him. His fingers clenched around the tooth box until his knuckles ached. A sharp pain cracked through and he dropped the box like it burned, massaging his fingers. Tears sprang to the corners of his eyes and he let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. The box sat half-buried in snow, seeming impervious to the flakes spiraling down around. The boy's face looked mocking, now. Jack slapped the box away so he couldn't see it, glaring at its dull gleam in the snow.

::You put me here::

::You were chosen::

::That's not for me::

::I don't think you understand what it is we do::

::Anyone wanna tell me why I'm here?::

::After all, you're not one of them::

Sighing, Jack curled forward, shutting his eyes to the world. He hugged himself tightly again, shaking.

The more he tried to forget Tooth's dismayed gasp, North turning away, Bunny's fist raised to strike, the more forcefully they barged into his mind's eye, vivid as when it happened right in front of him.

"I'm sorry," he whispered into the icy air, squeezing his eyes against more tears. "I wasn't..." Opening his eyes again he gazed at the white void around him. Blank. Empty. A wasteland. "I let you down..." The admission startled him. But then regret. Shame. It roiled in his lungs and he choked against it.

300 years of heartache and unrelenting need to have someone look at him and smile and say his name couldn't match the crippling reality that he'd had exactly that, this whole time, and he had just thrown it all away.

300 years of trying to make someone believe in him; and just like that he'd lost their faith.

300 years searching for a family; a place to belong even a little imperfectly, as long as he could at least stay a moment.

If he'd only thought of them for a moment more...

Jack had no one to blame but himself. He went off on his own. He ignored Baby Tooth's pleas to turn back, he followed a voice into a place he shouldn't have gone...

He reached out for the tooth box, fingers closing slowly around the ice-cold metal.

He got them all into this mess.

And now the Guardians... Now they were all suffering for it.

And the kids...

A vise clamped around his heart and twisted it so painfully he wanted to be sick. All his life he had only wanted just one kid to believe in Jack Frost. And now they didn't believe in anything at all. Because of him.

::After all, you're not one of them::

He got up, white-knuckle grip on the memories, and ran. Didn't matter where. He kicked up ice shards with a wave of his staff, and carved snowbanks into the most sinister shapes, flattening them down again so fast and pounding the wind into them, spraying pellets of hoarfrost in glistening fans. He ran to the edge of a cliff, ripping the box of his memories out of his pocket, curling his arm back as he approached the edge to hurl it over into nothing-

::In this life, you are a Guardian::

He dropped his hand, groaning in defeat.

He looked at the box – the jade and gold and the boy with his smirk but not his hair or eyes. The boy he once was, a long time ago...

Did any of that matter, now? Would it make any difference to know who he was for seventeen years before he rose out of a lake in colonial Burgess, Pennsylvania?

None of it mattered. Nothing.

For not even a day he'd had more than he'd gotten in 300 years, and he had been too selfish to even see it.

He'd been so close to love and being loved.

And now here he was, at the bottom of the world.

Alone again.

"I thought this might happen."